Student PSEA members transform a school library
On a warm spring day in early April, more than 300 enthusiastic college students, several teachers, volunteers, and retired educators arrived at Camp Curtin Academy in Harrisburg School District, an urban district hit especially hard by recent school funding cuts. Armed with art supplies, blueprints, and ambitious goals, they set out to beautify the school and transform the school library.
The volunteers rolled up their sleeves and went straight to work.
Student PSEA members brought more than 2,000 books they had collected to donate to the library. They sorted, organized, and shelved more than 10,000 books and beautified the walls with murals connected to contemporary young adult fiction, such as Divergent, Hunger Games, and Harry Potter series.
"Outreach gives us the opportunity to come together and positively influence the community," noted Lauren Williams, a West Chester University student and president of Student PSEA. "We want to grow as professionals in the field of education, but we also want to make a lasting impact and change communities for the better. This is what Outreach to Teach is all about - joining hands to touch the hearts of those around us."
Outreach to Teach volunteers painted more than 45 different murals around the school's hallways, library, gym, and entryway, depicting the school's mascot (Larry the Leopard) and using the school's colors. The group repainted the entire gymnasium as well.
Due to budget cuts Harrisburg School District has one rotating librarian for the eight schools in the district, so understandably, the library needed some TLC. Retired school librarian Linda Ciani, a member of the Student PSEA Executive Board, immediately set up camp in the library. "From a librarian's perspective, it was heartbreaking," she said. "When we walked in, we saw a mountain of books, uncatalogued, with no method to check books in and out. The Camp Curtin students deserve better."
"School libraries are essential to providing students with access to resources they need for success and academic achievement," Ciani added. "It's important to have a library with books on a shelf, but unless there is a librarian to encourage and share the love of reading, to recommend books, and to guide students, the library cannot be as much of a help to students."
Each year, future educators from Pennsylvania's colleges and universities come together to participate in Outreach to Teach - a community service project that kicks off their annual conference. This year's project will have an impact on students for years into the future.